Colorado baker takes gay wedding cake case to the U.S. Supreme Court

FILE - In this March 10, 2014, file photo, Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips decorates a cake inside his store in Lakewood, Colo. Colorado's Supreme Court has refused to take up the case of Phillips, who would not make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, letting stand a lower court's ruling that the Masterpiece Cakeshop owner cannot cite his Christian beliefs in refusing service. The American Civil Liberties Union applauded the Monday, April 25, 2016 development, saying it affirmed that no one should be turned away from a business serving the public because of who they are or who they love.

FILE - In this March 10, 2014, file photo, Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips decorates a cake inside his store in Lakewood, Colo. Colorado's Supreme Court has refused to take up the case of Phillips, who would not make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, letting stand a lower court's ruling that the Masterpiece Cakeshop owner cannot cite his Christian beliefs in refusing service. The American Civil Liberties Union applauded the Monday, April 25, 2016 development, saying it affirmed that no one should be turned away from a business serving the public because of who they are or who they love. AP Photo

A Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple filed a petition Friday with the U.S. Supreme Court after the state’s highest court declined to hear his case, the Denver Post reports.

Back in 2012, Masterpiece Cake Shop owner Jack Phillips turned away a gay couple who came in for a wedding cake, citing his religious beliefs. When he was sued for denying the couple service based on their sexual orientation, an administrative law judge found Phillips in violation of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. That decision was upheld on appeal.

Last month, the Colorado Supreme Court decided it would not hear Phillips’ case, so he’s taking it to the highest court in the land.

“No one — not Jack or anyone else — should be forced by the government to further a message that they cannot in good conscience promote,” attorney Jeremy Tedesco said in a statement from the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom. “And that’s what this case is about.”

The ACLU of Colorado disagrees with that assessment, with Legal Director Mark Silverstein telling the Denver Post that while the case history has made clear that everyone has a right to their religious views, “business owners cannot rely on those beliefs as an excuse to discriminate against prospective customers.”

The ADF points to other cases in which the state ruled in favor of bakers who declined other types of cakes and argues that it’s a double standard:

It is undisputed that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission…does not apply CADA [Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act] to ban (1) an African-American cake artist from refusing to create a cake promoting white-supremacism for the Aryan Nation, (2) an Islamic cake artist from refusing to create a cake denigrating the Quran for the Westboro Baptist Church, and (3) three secular cake artists from refusing to create cakes opposing same-sex marriage for a Christian patron.

The CADA does not list white supremacists as a protected class, and declining to create a product with derogatory messages, when that decision is not tied to the identity of the person requesting the product, is not considered discrimination under the act.

The group also claims that Phillips didn’t deny service to the couple because they were gay — he apparently offered other confections and say he serves gay and lesbian customers in general — but because to do so would have forced him to promote a message that goes against his religious beliefs.

“This is not about the people who asked for a cake, it’s about the message the cake communicates,” ADF-allied attorney Nicolle Martin of Lakewood, who is serving as co-counsel in the case, said in the release. “No artist should be punished for declining to promote ideas or participate in events when they disagree with the message communicated.”

So what message, exactly would the couple’s cake have communicated? Wedding cakes typically celebrate marriage, love, and commitment. Phillips makes wedding cakes for straight couples, so he does not appear to be opposed to messages promoting love and marriage. Unless the people getting married are gay or lesbian.

This won’t be the first time the U.S. Supreme Court is asked to address the perceived conflict between religious freedom and anti-discrimination laws. The Court declined in 2014 to hear the case of a photographer who refused to record video of a same-sex couple’s commitment ceremony.

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